Why Declaring Victory in the Third Inning
Can Set Us Up for Defeat in the Ninth Inning

September 16, 2003

Comment: #494

Discussion Threads - Comment #s: 492 "The Werther Solution"

Attached References:

[Ref.1] David Rohde, "Taliban Officials Tell Of Plans To Grind Down The Americans, " New York Times, September 12, 2003

[Ref 2] Lauren Sandler, "Veiled And Worried In Baghdad," New York Times, September 16, 2003

The US strategy of pre-emption in the War on Terror has landed the United States on the flypaper of two Fourth Generation Wars: [see 4GW] one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq. These wars seem to have at least four features in common:

  1. In each case, the hi-tech US military appeared to win a stunningly quick victory against the deployed military forces of the enemy, victories that our policy makers encouraged to be portrayed around the world by a credulous media as triumphs of high technology.

  2. But the forces of each adversary dispersed and melted away to fight another day in another way.

  3. And in both cases, there were indications and warnings before the fact suggesting that the "conventional" phase of the war would be followed by some sort dispersal of forces and a mutation into some sort of an irregular war, or what we call generically a Fourth Generation War [see 4GW].

  4. Finally, whatever is happening now in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is not about Osama bin Ladin, although it may be said fairly that he created the situation that landed America in these wars.

Consider please the following: On October 3, 2001, for example, four days before the US began bombarding the Taliban "infrastructure" and the entrenched positions in northern Afghanistan with a barrage cruise missiles and precision guided weapons, a report in the Telegraph [UK] noted in passing that the Taliban leader "Mullah Mohammed Omar, recognizes that his regime may soon be ousted and forced into fighting a guerrilla war." ... and that ... "most Taliban officials have fled to the hills and that Mullah Omar has left the city in fear of his life and never spends two nights in one place."

This week, almost two years later, two Taliban officials told David Rohde of the New York Times [Ref 1] that they have regrouped and will pursue a a strategy of small guerrilla attacks, possibly for the next 10 to 20 years, with the aims of frustrating and bleeding US forces and fanning popular discontent in the Afghan countryside due to the lack of security and slow pace of reconstruction, with the ultimate objective of grinding down US by forcing it to expend billions of dollars in military costs. The rising tempo of combat in recent months, together with reports of decreasing security in the countryside and the slow pace of reconstruction, are consistent with their statements.

Before the war in Iraq, there were many news reports speculating about how Saddam had learned about the vulnerability of deploying forces in static positions from the bombardments of 1991. These reports speculated he would disperse his forces in front of a US attack, then use guerrilla tactics to draw our forces into a bloody urban battle for Baghdad, while irregular forces attacked our long lines of communication [see, for example, "Guerrilla tactics work for Iraqis," USA Today, 24 March 2003].

In the event, this Iraqi scenario did not happen (with the exception of a few small attacks on our communications), but Iraqi troops dispersed and many if not most disappeared, and although they lost much heavy equipment, the Iraqis were not disarmed, because the rising tide of guerrilla attacks makes it clear that Iraq is littered with hidden weapons dumps containing thousands of AK-47s and RPG-7s and millions of rounds of ammunition. Like Mullah Omar in his mountains, Saddam disappeared into the vapors of the Sunni triangle, and may or may not be directing or influencing the shape of these attacks. Whatever the case, several months after the President declared victory, it is beginning to look like the Unites States is stuck in an increasingly bloody and horrendously expensive fourth generation war in a country that is rapidly becoming a petri-dish breeding fourth-generation warriors and terrorists.

These evolutions illustrate the seamless nature of fourth generation war in the 21st Century —

  • The distinction between war and peace has been blurred.

  • The concept of victory is not associated with the "defeat" of a nation-states centrally organized forces.

Bear in mind, much of what we are seeing is not new: As if heeding the words of Sun Tzu, today's 4GW warriors disperse when faced with a "superior" threat. Like T. E. Lawrence, they aim to retain the initiative by operating autonomously in small groups, attacking with tips, not strokes, trying never to be on the defensive except by accident or error. So, much what is happening is plain old guerrilla war with a good dose of anarcho-terrorism to boot.

But these "guerrilla" actions are also taking place against a the new background of integrating and disintegrating pressures created by a host of globalizing technologies, as well as variety of latent demographic/cultural forces that were unleashed by the collapse of the bi-polar cold-war world order. Included in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, is a bewildering variety of vendetta cultures, tribal politics, and historical legacies (including the unfinished legacy of the Ottoman collapse in 1918) that defy a neat compartmentalization.

A failure to appreciate the seamless nature of Fourth Generation War (4GW) and its cultural background can lead to unintended consequences in the short term (see Ref 2, for example, which describes how the re-emergence of veils in Baghdad (what was one of the Arab world's most cosmopolitan cities with women represented in all the professions) and how the growing terrorization of women have attended the American "liberation") and perhaps defeat over the long term.

Fortunately, there are some patriotic military people in the United States who understand the long-term implications of the seamless nature of 4GW. Unfortunately, as George Wilson, the dean of Washington's defense reporters, points out in the following important essay, their voices are being drowned, like those of their predecessors during the Vietnam War.

I urge you to carefully read Wilson report.

Talking About Defense
Listening To Zinni And Ellsberg

By George C. Wilson
National Journal
September 13, 2003

[Re-printed with permission of the author]

In the White House, at the Pentagon, and in some of the caves in Foggy Bottom, they hate him and his kind. But Tony Zinni -- the scrappy kid from South Philadelphia who grew up to be a boat-rocking Marine general who ran everything from the Mogadishu police department in Somalia to the entire U.S. Central Command that controls all U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf -- is just what we need in this day of the Imperial Presidency and rubber-stamp Congress. Zinni's bayonet-like thrusts into President Bush's Iraq policies, combined with the points that Daniel Ellsberg makes in his new book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, help mightily to disabuse us of the idea that the president always knows best.

In a September 4 speech in Arlington, Va., to a forum sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association, Zinni talked about the parallels between the Vietnam era and the war in Iraq. "We heard the garbage and the lies," Zinni said of the rhetoric from the White House during Vietnam, "and we saw the sacrifice. And we swore: Never again would we allow it to happen. And I ask you, 'Is it happening again?' "

Conflicts today, Zinni said, cannot be divided into two separate phases, the shooting and the peacekeeping parts. The war plan for the combat and the aftermath has to be "seamless," the retired four-star argued to the audience of Marine and Navy officers. "We have no plan" for finishing the job in Iraq, he asserted. And in an apparent hit on Bush's declaration in May that the Iraq mission was accomplished, Zinni said, "At the end of the third inning, we declared victory and said the game's over. It ain't over. It isn't going to be over in future wars."

It was Zinni's criticism of Bush's performance in Iraq that understandably caught the headlines. But his larger message received too little attention. Either the United States must arm itself with a powerful and professional peacekeeping bureaucracy, he said, one with plenty of money and people who are experts at reviving a drowning nation, or we will continue to lose in the long run the wars we "win" in the short run. Not since President Truman, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and George Marshall mobilized organizations and dollars to resuscitate Europe after World War II has the United States won a war all the way, Zinni contended.

If the "suits" won't meld the war fighting and the peacekeeping, Zinni said of civilian leaders, then let the military do it through its regional commanders. Conceding that the idea probably has military leaders "shaking in their boots," he said that regional commanders, if they get the mission, should rebuild and govern the nations that the United States invades "while the shooting is still going on. Reconstruction people should have come into Baghdad right behind the Marines," he said.

Zinni, who took off his uniform in 2000, is no dilettante; no theoretical think-tanker. He has immersed himself in the cultures of the world's hot spots, both as a soldier and as a troubleshooter for the State Department. His preference is for a civilian-run, latter-day Marshall Plan for Iraq and Afghanistan. But he noted that State is so outgunned by the Pentagon in dollars and people -- there are more U. S. military musicians in Europe than U. S. diplomats, he said -- that this must-do job may have to be done by the military. If so, the generals and admirals would be "truly pro-consuls" who would "set regional policy," Zinni said. And military officers would have to be trained to handle that new kind of mission.

Zinni is worth listening to about Iraq because he is precisely the kind of onetime insider turned dissenting outsider who can question a president's policies with intelligence and insight. Modern presidents are isolated by all the power they have accumulated, and Congress has largely given up its power to decide when and why we wage war.

Ellsberg, like Zinni a former marine who knows war firsthand, discovered when he was inside the Pentagon during Vietnam that aides often recoiled from challenging the president on his policies. Dissenting views rarely filtered into the Oval Office. Ellsberg concluded that only outsiders with credible credentials could influence a modern-day president to change course. He made that case in regard to Vietnam-era presidents, but it is just as relevant to Iraq and President Bush:

"The concentration of power within the executive branch since World War II had focused nearly all responsibility for policy 'failure' upon one man, the president," Ellsberg writes. "At the same time, it gave him enormous capability to avert or postpone or conceal such personal failure by means of force and fraud.... That power could not fail to corrupt the human who held it. The only way to change the president's course was to bring pressure on him from outside.... "

As one of the first newsmen to read the Pentagon Papers that Ellsberg leaked more than 30 years ago, I realized that they confirmed my worst fears about the Imperial Presidency. Today, I say amen to Ellsberg's thesis and hooray for the Zinnis who tell us when the emperor has no clothes. We need these informed dissidents more than ever in this era of pre-emptive warfare, when the shooting and destruction by our unrivaled military is the easy part, and the reconstruction is the real challenge.

Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

Taliban Officials Tell Of Plans To Grind Down The Americans

By David Rohde
New York Times
September 12, 2003


NEW DELHI, Sept. 11—


Hajji Ibrahim, who identified himself as a Taliban commander, said the group's goal was to tie down the United States in Afghanistan and force it to spend huge sums responding to limited attacks that draw American forces "here to there, here to there."


Mr. Ibrahim said he was a commander of 2,000 Taliban forces and 200 Pakistani volunteers on the front line just north of Kabul in the fall of 2001. He gave extensive and accurate descriptions of fighting in the area at the time.


They confirmed reports that the Taliban leadership held a meeting in late June at which Mullah Omar announced a new military strategy. Since then, Taliban attacks on American and Afghan forces have increased to the point where American soldiers come under fire almost daily.

Four American soldiers died in August alone, after only five were killed in the previous seven months.


The United States is currently spending roughly $11 billion a year on its military deployment in Afghanistan and $1.8 billion a year on reconstruction.


"Maybe it will take time, maybe it will take 10 or 20 years," he said. "But we will continue our fighting."

Reference 2

Veiled And Worried In Baghdad

By Lauren Sandler
New York Times [Op-Ed]
September 16, 2003




"Under Saddam we could drive, we could walk down the street until two in the morning," a young designer told me as she bounced her 4-year-old daughter on her lap. "Who would have thought the Americans could have made it worse for women? This is liberation?"

In their palace surrounded by armed soldiers, officials from the occupying forces talk about democracy. But in the same cool marble rooms, when one mentions the fears of the majority of Iraq's population, one can hear a representative of the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police, say, "We don't do women." What they don't seem to realize is that you can't do democracy if you don't do women.


"We never investigate these cases [“honor” killings] anyway - someone has to come and confess the killing, which they almost never do," said an investigator who looked into the case and then dismissed it because the sisters "knew one of the men, so it must not be kidnapping."

This violence has made postwar Iraq a prison of fear for women.


But to understand the culture of women in Iraq, coalition officials must venture beyond their razor-wired checkpoints and step down from their convoys of Land Cruisers so they can talk to the nation they occupy. On the streets and in the markets, they'll receive warm invitations to share enormous lunches in welcoming homes, as is the Iraqi custom. And there they'll hear this notion repeated frankly and frequently: without hima [security] for women, there will be no place for democracy to grow in Iraq.

Lauren Sandler, a journalist, is investigating issues of women and culture in Iraq for the Carr Foundation.